Rationality – Steven Pinker
Biases distort our cognitive system and impair our ability to make rational decisions. The myth that we are rational beings stems from the mistaken assumption that our brains are, by default, instruments of logic. We are taken on a journey through the mechanics of the mind toward the root of our irrationality, which is due to motives shaping our judgment, by analysing the most common cognitive fallacies.
Rationality: what sets humans apart from other species
- Rationality is a tool for achieving one’s objectives.
- Rationality facilitates decision-making.
- Both ignorance and self-control are viable options.
- Science is the application of logic to real-world problems.
- As a result of institutions, we become less partial — and more sensible.
- People are punished for their own good, resulting in a more rational society.
- Our most important moral principle is powerful because it is rational.
Rationality: A Tool for Achieving a Goal
Dictionary definitions of rational include “having a reason.” Furthermore, the term “reason” is derived from the Latin word ratio, which means “reason.”
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Philosophers define rationality as the ability to use information to achieve goals.
However, rationality entails more than simply believing correct thoughts such as “1 + 1 = 2.” It also makes our jobs easier.
Rationality is merely a means to an aim
We can always try another path if one is blocked. This is human logic in action.
Goals are born from one’s passions. Desires, drives, and emotions like love, anger, pride, envy, and fear give rise to feelings like love, rage, pride, envy, and fear. As a result, reason is the “slave of the passions.”
The Conjunction Fallacy
When a person believes that specific conditions are more likely than a single general one, they are committing the conjunction fallacy.
What are they thinking? A set of events described by a single statement can be generic and abstract, with nothing to hold the mind’s attention. Imagineability drives intuitive probability: the easier something is to visualise, the more likely it appears.
The Availability Heuristic
The availability heuristic is a decision-making method based on familiar facts—anything that has left an indelible imprint on our minds.
There is far too much information circulating in society to evaluate the truth or lack thereof of each point. To counteract this, we develop mental shortcuts. When we are presented with new information, we quickly assess the veracity of the material by making a quick inventory of our current beliefs.
Our judgements are mostly irrational
Our irrational judgments have been amplified by the media.
The safety of flying versus driving is a classic example.
Every year, 1.3 million people are killed on the world’s roads, while plane crashes kill 250 people.
We hear about the year’s single plane crash but not about the 364 days of safe air travel.
Avoiding absolutes is part of probabilistic thinking. We open the door to further discussions when we express the likelihood of our beliefs. Rather than stating things as true or false, try saying things like, ‘I’m an 80 on that,’ or ‘I’m only a 25 on that.’ As a result, we continue to be open to new evidence while gathering data to guide future truth-seeking efforts.
Ignorance and self-restraint are both viable options
Knowing something does not guarantee that you will act rationally in response to it.
Willpower isn’t always up to the task of overcoming temptation.
One method of combating temptation is to refrain from acting on it.
It’s much easier to resist the siren songs of unhealthy treats if you go shopping after you’ve eaten, for example.
Motivated reasoning describes how our beliefs shape our perception of the world, ensuring that we see things as we are rather than as they are.
When we add a belief to our arsenal, evidence for its truth begins to accumulate. Even if we are presented with evidence that contradicts these beliefs, we will interpret it in ways that support our current narratives.
Confirmation bias causes us to focus on information that confirms our beliefs while ignoring or distorting evidence that contradicts them. Part of this reasoning stems from our proclivity to treat ideas like possessions, things we want to keep at all costs.
Arguing is for the ego, not for truth
People are frequently more concerned with prevailing in an argument than with discovering the truth. Truth-seeking has devolved into a competition that rewards dogmatic beliefs while punishing open-mindedness. As a result, the social perception is that changing our minds is a sign of weakness. When, in fact, it is an indication of significant intellectual strength.